I’ve notice something new this year. Several communities have been holding spring fairs. Anderson held their fair a couple of weeks ago, and one is currently underway in Simpsonville. It seems a strange time of year to hold a fair, so I decided to check out the Simpsonville Fair at Heritage Park.
First a bit of history…
Fairs started as an annual gathering to display agricultural goods. The practice goes back to medieval time, where denizens would gather in the local village at the appointed time to display their work and to celebrate harvest. Even in these earliest incarnations, the fair has attracted performers and other amusements. In more recent times organizations such as local 4H clubs took a prominent role. The exhibits were the main part of the fair, and the “midway” was populated with rides and shows, which were secondary to the purpose of the fair.
As local farming has declined, so have the local fairs. Many counties no longer hold fairs at all. For those that still do, there is hardly any evidence of the fair’s agricultural beginnings. Almost all of it has given way to the rides and shows of the midway. The South Carolina State Fair is about the only one I know of that still has the various exhibits as well as the midway.
Fairs were traditionally held in the fall, after harvest. That way the prize pumpkins and vegetables would be ready for display. However, with the decline of the agricultural aspect of the fair, they could hold them just about anytime.
I guess spring is as good a time of year as any other, so now we get the Anderson and Simpsonville Fairs. Laura pointed out that technically perhaps they shouldn’t be called “fairs” but “carnivals.”
I enjoy doing night photography at fairs (or carnivals, or whatever.) There is always a riot of color and a collection of some rather interesting people. Tuesday night worked out perfectly for an excursion to the Simpsonville Fair as it was only $2 admission.
Turnout at Heritage Park was better than I expected. I parked a good distance away from the entrance and made the trek over. Inside I found a typical set of rides and shows. I think I saw many of the same type of vendors at the Spartanburg Spring Fling a couple of weeks ago.
There were the games of skill and vendors…
And, of course, the carnival food…
I even caught a bit of a “Lady Houdini” escape artist show.
I was armed with three cameras. I had my GoPro, my Panasonic Lumix, and my Nikon with a 35mm f/1.8 prime lens. The lights and movement are perfect subject matter for long exposure, so I cranked down the ISO and set the aperture to as small as possible. Of course, I had to use a tripod for these shots.
The Ferris Wheel proved to be one of the best targets. The colors were constantly changing as different lights came on. I shot it from multiple angles.
Other rides were interesting, but didn’t give quite as good results for long exposure.
It was fun just to shoot fast static images, as well. This is where having the f/1.8 lens and the f/2.8 optics of the Panasonic came in handy. I left these on auto ISO so that I wouldn’t have to use a tripod. That meant that the images picked up some digital noise, but I kind of like the gritty feeling it gives.
Since I had a fast lens, I tried to play around a bit with narrow depth of field. The carousel was a perfect subject. There were some challenges, though. The entire ride is brightly lit with fluorescent lights, which tend to wash out any color and make long exposure impossible. I had to shoot from the side.
Then there was this odd little thing…
It wasn’t practical to ride anything with all of my gear in tow, and I managed to resist the funnel cakes and deep fried green beans. Even so, I stayed longer than I had planned. As I left my ankle was starting to give out a bit, and I was limping. A park worker in a golf cart offered me a ride back to my car, and I gratefully accepted.
So, an interesting evening out. I guess there is a certain amount of nostalgia for fairs, plus the rides and attractions are fun. This one seemed to clean and well-run, and I didn’t see many of the scary “carneys” that operate the rides. Most seemed professional. It’s kind of fun that we can get these attractions year-round now, but I do miss the exhibits.